Passion for Justice

“Meaning” and the American Incarceration System

Students and inmates collaborate on performances and break down barriers

by Ed Carpenter, Office of Marketing Communications

USF art and dance students recently stepped out of the recital hall and into county jail, where they put social change art theory into practice with inmates and soon found themselves breaking down cultural biases in surprising ways. 

“We have so many prejudices that are ingrained in us and we’re socialized to have these ideas about incarcerated individuals and violence and why they’re here,” said Emily Flynn ’15, a student in Professor Amie Dowling’s Performing Arts and Community Exchange class. “For me, all these things were stripped away, and I was able to have these human interactions.”

Students worked with inmates at San Francisco Jail No. 5 in San Bruno, where they analyzed texts and collaborated on performances that provoked discussion, confronted social justice issues surrounding imprisonment, and sought meaning in America’s industrial incarceration system.

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